Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 4
By 1972, the world was still rockin’ in a sort of Sixties-era hangover: newly freaky 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote for the first time (only fair, since they were long qualified to be drafted into the military), and men were still walking on the moon way up there. Warner/Reprise issued a whopping four – count ’em – 2-disc sets in 1972, so for brevity’s sake we’ll break ’em up here.
The Whole Burbank Catalog showcased the variety of the label’s stable: rockers like Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper were mixed in with Jerry Garcia, Jackie Lomax and Bonnie Raitt. T. Rex and Faces would spotlight their best albums with “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” and “Memphis,” respectively. Cuts from old radio shows were interspersed with the music, to really make it sound like a free-form FM radio show – that technique is still in use today. A new group making their first appearance in the Loss Leaders series was the trio America, represented by “Sandman,” a deep cut from their first LP. That album would of course yield the big hits “Horse With No Name” and “I Need You,” and was the springboard for a long career. It would take another album for the Texas-born duo of Seals & Crofts to hit it big – here they offer “Sudan Village,” a cut from their first album. They’d cash in later in the year with the title song from their next album: Summer Breeze.
One of the big movies from 1972 was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and the dude who did the music was Walter Carlos, a Moog synthesizer whiz who hit it big with electronic versions of classical music. He offers his version of the famous “William Tell Overture,” which matches a memorable scene from the movie (rent it). 1972 was a big year for Carlos, not because of the movie soundtrack, but because that year he underwent “sex reassignment” surgery and became Wendy Carlos.
Another thing happening in 1972 was the advent of the singer/songwriter. Warners had some monsters in its stable: James Taylor, for one (who appeared with “Fire and Rain” on 1970’s The Big Ball). Kenny Young was more songwriter than singer – he co-wrote “Under the Boardwalk” and “Sand In My Shoes,” both classics by the Drifters – and here he turns up as a guitar-playing vocalist. Young didn’t become a pop star but he became a producer of note, responsible for cause-oriented various-artists projects like Earthrise (1992) and Planet Electrica, a relief effort for Hurricane Mitch.
The Warners brain trust probably took a week off when they rather obviously titled Middle Of The Road. Exactly as advertised, the album showcases the singer/songwriters in the Warners stable. Jesse Colin Young was the frontman of the California rock group the Youngbloods, and he was responsible for some of that group’s most memorable songs (“Darkness Darkness”, “Grizzly Bear”). When Young cut his solo album Together in 1972, he disbanded the Youngbloods. He still writes and performs today, and occasionally re-forms the Youngbloods for a hoot.
Very little in the way of rock surfaces on Middle Of The Road; stalwarts of sensitivity like Seals & Crofts, Rod McKuen and Gordon Lightfoot rule here. Even Frank Sinatra makes a token appearance, with the McKuen-penned “Love’s Been Good To Me.” James Taylor might be poking fun at the whole singer/songwriter scene with his “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On the Jukebox.” New label signee John Stewart, fresh from stints in the Cumberland Three and the Kingston Trio, actually lets his father do most of the work on his weird “An Account of Halley’s Comet.”
Next: We look at the other two Loss Leaders samplers from 1972. Whew!